Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 6

Three police officers were killed in Dagestan on February 4 during an incident in which gunmen fatally shot a police investigator in his car outside his home in the Dagestani capital, Makhachkala, and two bombs went off as a police convoy headed to the site of the shooting. According to the Associated Press, one of the targeted cars was that of Dagestani Interior Minister Adilgerei Magomedtagirov, and the vehicle’s driver and a bodyguard died in the blast. Magomedtagirov, however, was unhurt; he had traveled to the scene of the shooting in a separate car and was already there when the bombs went off. In a similar incident last August, Magomedtagirov’s convoy was hit by an explosion and gunfire on the way to the site of a car bombing that killed a prosecutor and fatally wounded two police officers but left the minister unhurt (Chechnya Weekly, August 10, 2006).

Kommersant reported on February 5 that the slain Dagestani Interior Ministry investigator, 27-year-old Maksud Magomedov, was the son of Kurbanmagomed Magomedov, the manager of a Dagestani government department who is an old friend of Dagestani Interior Minister Adilgerei Magomedtagirov. According to the newspaper, investigators believe that, as in the incident last August, the younger Magomedov, whose car was “literally riddled” with rounds from automatic weapons, was targeted simply to draw the Interior Minister into an ambush. “The killers had no doubts that General Magomedtagirov would personally come to the site of the incident,” the newspaper wrote. “The bombers didn’t count on one thing: the minister didn’t wait for his official transport to pick him up, but hurried to Nauchny Gorodok [the scene of Maksud Magomedov’s murder] with his brother in his car. His [Magomedtagirov’s] armored Toyota Land Cruiser was a few minutes behind them. At 23:10, when the minister was already at the scene of the incident, his SUV was blown up on Karitinskaya Street about 300 meters from the location of the murder of Captain Magomedov.” The explosion killed warrant officer Aleksei Zhdanov, a driver from the Dagestani Interior Ministry’s OMON special police force, and Magomed Osmanov, a senior officer with the Dagestani Interior Ministry’s internal affairs department. According to Kommersant, both were among Magomedtagirov’s most trusted men and Osmanov was “unofficially” considered the head of Magomedtagirov’s bodyguards.

Kommersant reported that two explosive devices equivalent to 15 kilograms of TNT exploded underneath the armored Toyota SUV, which was largely destroyed. According to the newspaper, investigators said the bombers used two artillery shells that were set off using a detonator connected to the shells with wires. “Normally, terrorists use radio-controlled explosive devices for attacks on Dagestani officials, triggering the explosions with calls from mobile telephones,” it wrote. “Another means of carrying out the terrorist attack, experts believe, was chosen because the ministerial Land Cruiser was literally buried in antennas from various communications devices.”

Kommersant quoted investigators as unofficially saying that this latest attempt on Dagestani Interior Minister Adilgerei Magomedtagirov was carried out by a man named Rasul, a Dagestani who is the father-in-law of Khattab, the late Saudi-born Chechen rebel field commander. The newspaper quoted Magomedtagirov himself as saying that the attack was carried out by rebels, but that he did not rule out an underlying political motive. “There are forces interested in my resignation,” he said, hinting, according to Kommersant, at the fact that Dagestan’s new president, Mukhu Aliev, had started a campaign to remove the republic’s siloviki as part of purge of the members of the administration of his predecessor, former Dagestani President Magomedali Magomedov. “Supposedly, the attack was organized not only with the goal of physically liquidating the minister, but in order to show [that] if terrorist acts are being carried out against him, then he is not handling his work and not controlling the situation,” Kommersant wrote.

The newspaper added that the number of Magomedtagirov’s enemies has probably grown over the last half year. “The minister’s subordinates have recently carried out [dozens] of successful operations against local militants – ending, as a rule, in their liquidation,” the newspaper wrote. “At the same time, statements have periodically appeared on the extremists’ websites from members of the local Wahhabi groups – above all ‘Sharia’ – calling General Magomedtagirov their No. 1 Enemy and promising to carry out the death sentence they handed down to him long ago.”

According to Kommersant, some observers have connected the attempt on Magomedtagirov’s life to the Dagestani People’s Assembly election scheduled for March 11, noting that President Aliev has more than once stated that it will be up to the republican Interior Ministry to guarantee peace during the republic’s parliamentary election campaign. The newspaper also noted that two political parties – the Union of Right Forces (SPS) and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) – were disqualified from participating in the campaign, although the decision barring the KPRF was subsequently overturned by Dagestan’s Supreme Court.

Whatever the case, the Sharia Jamaat claimed responsibility for the attack on Adilgerei Magomedtagirov in a February 6 statement posted on the Kavkaz-Center website, Kavkazcenter.com. “By the grace of Allah, the Jamaat ‘Sharia’ conducted another special operation against the munafiqs [hypocrites] in the person of Khamilgereya [Adilgerei Magomedtagirov] and his dog!” the statement read. “As a result of the operation, an investigator-munafiq, the head of Khamilgereya’s bodyguards and [his] personal driver were destroyed. Allahu Akbar!” The group added that the attack was “our response to the assault on our brothers in Shamikala (former Makhachkala)” – an apparent reference to last month’s special operation targeting a group of rebels who were hiding in a 12-story building in the Dagestani capital (Chechnya Weekly, January 11). RIA Novosti reported on January 11 that four suspected militants were killed in that operation, which lasted for 14 hours. Referring to the losses, the Sharia Jamaat said in its statement: “Our dead are in Paradise, their dead are in Hell.” (According to RIA Novosti, there were no fatalities or injuries among the security forces who conducted the January 10-11 operation in Makhachkala.)

The Sharia Jamaat threatened to carry out even more violence. “Those who think that they can hide behind their typewriters in their investigators’ offices, torturing Muslims, are mistaken,” its statement read. “Armored automobiles will not help them. It is not complicated for the Jamaat ‘Sharia’ to receive information about the location and movement of any of the munafiqs. Special Operational Groups (SOG) will act without a statute of limitations or amnesty. Punishment of the criminals among the kaffirs [infidels] and munafiqs is unavoidable.”

Kavkazky Uzel reported on February 6 that Dagestani President Mukhu Aliev met with the heads of the republic’s law-enforcement organs in a closed session on February 5 to discuss the attempt on Adilgerei Magomedtagirov’s life. According to the website, Aliev stressed that it was the second attack on the Dagestani interior minister in half a year and said that despite assurances by the law-enforcement chiefs, the first attempt, which took place in August 2006, has not yet been solved. The reason the second attack on Magomedtagirov was carried out is that the perpetrators of the first attempt have not yet been caught and punished, Aliev said, noting the identical methods and character of the two attacks. According to Kavkazky Uzel, Aliev questioned the ability of the Dagestani force structures to solve such crimes. The Dagestani president reportedly said he would inform President Vladimir Putin about the problem and ask the heads of the corresponding federal law-enforcement bodies to send investigators and other personnel to Dagestan to help solve the crimes and apprehend the perpetrators and organizers.

According to Kavkazky Uzel, Aliev also noted that a February 1 meeting of the Dagestani Security Council and Anti-Terrorist Commission had given an “unambiguous assessment” of the “remnants of the gang underground operating in the republic, which, using religious themes in their anti-state rhetoric, are at the same time not averse to committing commonplace robberies, pillages and other crimes incompatible with principles and tenets of Islam.”

Meanwhile, the official car of Raip Ashikov, the head of the criminal police in Khasavyurt, was attacked by unknown gunmen on February 6. While Ashikov was unhurt, the attack killed one policeman and wounded two others, as well as a female pedestrian. “The incident happened at about 3:30 p.m. Moscow time on Groznenskaya Street,” a source in the Khasavyurt prosecutor’s office told ITAR-Tass. “The official vehicle of Ashikov came under automatic gunfire. There were three officers inside, and Ashikov took another car several minutes before the attack.”